La Vendimia Restaurant, Imaginatively Tasteful

The woman waved her hands to attract our attention.

“Are you going to eat at La Vendimia?” She asked.

“Just on our way now,” I replied.

“Wonderful,” she smiled. “I’ve just finished dining there and the food was fabulous. You’ve got to try the mussels…they’re huge.”

La Vendimia’s setting in the Hotel Spa Villalba in Vilaflor on the edge of the pines is perfect for a romantic culinary liaison. As dusk fell and the sky turned velvet, the patio lights on the restaurant’s terrace lit up the enchanting forest outside.

Inside, a soft colour scheme of oatmeal and beige contrasting with dark wood furnishings creates a tasteful, gentle atmosphere. Scenes of traditional country life on the walls and freshly cut flowers on each table serve as reminders of La Vendimia’s rural setting. A few tables were occupied by couples of varying ages, all of whom seemed to be enjoying the romantic ambience.

The seductive scene was set. A hike around the streets of Vilaflor had built up a bit of an appetite and so I was chomping at the bit to see whether the menu had the charm to romance my tastebuds.

The Main Attraction, The Menu at La Vendimia
I get a buzz out of being excited by a menu. Most of the time on Tenerife this doesn’t happen. That’s not to say that the food isn’t good, it’s just that menus often lack the imagination that rings my gastronomic bell.

This wasn’t the case with La Vendimia.

The menu was small, but boy was it select. Although there was a limited choice for each course, the descriptions of each dish had my tastebuds delirious with anticipation.

Tempura of vegetables from the hotel’s garden; creamy vegetables with crusty bread; pork loin in a honey and mustard sauce; garlic tagliatelle with clams

I was glad there weren’t more dishes as I struggled to choose from the short list in front of me.

After a difficult elimination process we finally decided on vegetable tempura and the cheese plate with blueberry jam to kick off this particular culinary journey, followed by Côte d’Azur mussels and the pork loin with honey and mustard sauce. Although it was unlikely that there would be any room left at the stomach inn, the lure of raspberry and mint sorbet and the restaurant’s house cake to finish off sounded too yummy to let pass.

To accompany the feast we ordered a bottle of Pagos Reverón, an ecological red wine from the owner’s vineyard.

Whilst we waited for our food, we were brought a wonderful looking and tasting appetiser of light pastry boats topped with smoked salmon, cream cheese and chives.

The cheese platter when it arrived looked attractively stylish and the blueberry jam added a fruity zing to savoury slices of manchego, semi-curado and queso fresco. However, the tempura was a revelation. I”M a huge fan of tempura and La Vendimia’s was in another class. This was the FC Barcelona of tempuras.

Courgettes, pumpkin, aubergine, artichoke, leek and red and green peppers encased in the crispiest of batters was possibly the best tempura I’ve had the pleasure to meet…and eat. I can’t tell you how good it was…and that was before it was dipped in the soy sauce.

The main courses were artistic in their presentation. Medallions of pork, squaring up to a potato gratin tower, were tender enough to be eaten using chopsticks whilst huge green mussels topped by a chipstick bonfire lay on a vibrant bed of vegetables.

All the dishes were an absolute joy to look at and, more importantly, to devour.

By the time we reached the dessert stage I was ready to wave my napkin in defeat but although the refreshing raspberry mint sorbet was the sensible choice, the cream, moist sponge and white chocolate ‘house’ cake that I’d ordered was worth risking dying from over-eating for.

La Vendimia Summary
The rural setting is wonderful and if you’re looking for a romantic location that would confound many people’s image of Tenerife, this is the place. But dining at La Vendimia isn’t just about romance, even if the food does get in on the act by making love to your senses. La Vendimia is a restaurant for people who love food and who want to be wowed by cuisine that is creative and as fresh as Vilaflor’s mountain air.

Tenerife magazine’s five star rating for La Vendimia
Décor ““ 4 stars. Tasteful and fresh with some nice original touches such as stained glass panels and the depictions of rural life on the walls. Maybe slightly too brightly lit for setting a perfect romantic scene.
Menu ““ 4.5 stars. Small but diverse and appealingly creative. Lovers of good food will want to try everything on it. There are also choices for vegetarians. When we ate there there wasn’t a vegetarian main, but there were two vegetarian starters and the tempura was of main meal proportions.
Food ““ 4.5 stars. Overall the food just looked and tasted sensational. The tempura especially was simply one of those “Wow’ dishes.
Service ““ 4.5 stars. Smiley, friendly and attentive staff who seemed extremely happy in their jobs and that came across in how they interacted with customers.
Where, when and how
Part of the Hotel Spa Villalba in Vilaflor; +34 922 70 99 30; open 7pm to 10pm daily.
The average prive of a meal is around €25 per person. A bottle of wine costs from €10.


Sabor Español Restaurant Review, Wild Boar & Flamenco Chill Out

It’s not often that I’m compelled to find out what the background music is in restaurants on Tenerife, but the jazzy riffs with a hint of Andalusian rhythms providing the audio backdrop to the Sabor Español Tasca & Restaurant at the Barcélo Santiago Hotel were really rather cool.

“It’s a mix of modern Flamenco and Chill Out,” Elvi (Elvis without the ‘s” as she described her name), our delightful and knowledgeable waitress, told us. That explained the hint of Andalusian rhythms then.

Sabor Español’s stylishly subdued lighting, dark wooden tables and chairs with blood red cushions combined with music I’d happily chill out to at home exuded sleek sophistication. The ingredients ticked all the right boxes in creating an ambience that promised an enjoyable dining experience. The restaurant looked and felt sensuous, intimate and a good choice for a romantic dinner for two, a group of friends”¦or even the local taxi drivers’ Christmas shindig for that matter; all of whom made up the other diners on the evening we were there.

The Flavours of Sabor Español
The menu, a fusion of Spanish and international cuisine, was concise; usually a good sign. With around half a dozen starters, half a dozen meat and fish dishes and a few rice dishes, including a couple of vegetarian options, there was sufficient variety of choice to keep most palates satisfied. The prices were also incredibly good value with main courses being around €12.
As soon as I opened the menu my eyes locked onto one of main courses like a heat-seeking missile. I had only eaten presa Iberian (wild boar) in chorizo form previously, so the opportunity to try something different really got my juices flowing.

To whet our appetites we nibbled on warm bread accompanied by mojo verde and mojo rojo followed by crunchy chicken and goats’ cheese salad for Andy and marinated smoked salmon salad for me.

Elvi had advised that the presa Iberian was best cooked medium rare and she was right on the mark. The juicy wild boar fillets, looking more like steak than pork, were seared on the outside, pink on the inside and beautifully tender. The flavour was also closer to steak than pork, except stronger with a far more pleasurably unique taste that was exactly to my liking.

To accompany the meal Elvi recommended a bottle of Viñatigo Tinto from Tenerife’s La Guancha area, explaining that, as a full bodied red, it was a suitable partner for the boar. Again she was spot on; the wine’s fruity, peppery flavours were a worthy match for the presa Iberian’s strong personality and a sip of wine after a mouthful of boar intensified the flavours of both.

Whilst I was enjoying my taste-buds’ new found friendship with wild boar, Andy was discovering that her choice, fillet of sole with salted baby squid in a mango and fennel sauce, was equally palate pleasing. The intriguing partnership of mango and fennel created a surprisingly subtle and light sauce which combined wonderfully with the crunchy squid and moist flaky sole.

With main course plates wiped as clean as though they’d never been graced by food and with stomach space rapidly running out, we completed our meal with a selection of small, light postres including white and dark chocolate mousse, coconut sponge and our favourite, strawberry cream in a white chocolate cup.

Just when we thought we couldn’t manage anything else Elvi came up with one final suggestion. As her advice had been faultless all evening, her recommendation of a chilled concoction to aid digestion, specially made from a mix of herbs and spices, seemed reasonable. It was only when I asked afterwards I discovered the concoction was that acquired taste known as Jägermeister.

It was my second “˜first’ of the evening. I’ll definitely be trying the wild boar again; however, the Jägermeister I can live without”¦even if Elvi was actually right about it aiding digestion.

Tenerife magazine’s five star rating for Sabor Español
Décor ““ 4 stars. Sensuous, stylish and sophisticated with a relaxing ambience that is ideal for a romantic liaison.
Menu ““ 4 stars. A small but varied menu which combines crowd pleasers with some original creations.
Food ““ 3.5 stars. Main courses were inventive and cooked perfectly. Starters weren’t quite as imaginative.
Service ““ 5 stars. The staff were professional and friendly, especially Elvi who was simply delightful. It felt as though we were being served by a friend, albeit a very knowledgeable and professional one.

Where, when and how
Inside the Hotel Barceló Santiago , La Hondura 8, Puerto Santiago; open 19.00-23.00; reservations (0034) 922 86 09 12.
Starters average €6, main courses average €12. There is also a discount for hotel guests.


Tapas with a Difference on Tenerife, El Olivo Restaurant Review

The last time I was really surprised by a tapas dish was on one of Tenerife’s tapas routes when I bit into ravioli sorpresa to discover that the little square of pasta was filled with space dust. Raviola that snaps, crackles and pops was definitely a surprise and no other tapas dish on Tenerife has come close to having the same impact”¦that was until the restaurant speciality was placed in front of me at Tasca el Olivo in Puerto de la Cruz.

Although tapas is readily available on Tenerife, with many Canarian and Spanish restaurants including a tapas section on their menus, specialist restaurants dedicated to the art of el tapeo are still relatively thin on the ground; Tasca el Olivo on Calle Iriarte in Puerto de la Cruz is one of them.

The interior of the tasca has an inviting, rustic ambience with intimate polished wood booths and an incredibly narrow spiral staircase that becomes more difficult to negotiate post-meal after the waistband has increased a couple of notches. It’s a wonderfully cosy environment for whiling away an afternoon picking at tapas dishes; however being a people watcher I chose to sit at one of the tables on the street.

The menu offers a choice of montaditos, salads, tablas of chorizos, Serrano ham, cheeses and pates. Best of all is the imaginative picoteo section featuring a mix of familiar tapas dishes as well as el Olivo originals that are a marriage of Canarian ingredients and Mediterranean cuisine.

First up was an avocado and tuna salad. Generally speaking I don’t find salads on Tenerife particularly adventurous and this was no exception. There was nothing wrong with it, but the most exciting thing about eating it was when a car came careening down the hill, misjudged the corner, screeched across the road and crashed into a street bollard with an explosive bang. It was a very Canarian RTA in that there was no-one else involved; the driver had managed to manufacture an accident out of nothing. It livened up the salad no end.

The second tapas dish was much more to my liking; crispy croquettes filled with a savoury mix of potato and fish and accompanied by a scoop of Russian salad. Being Scottish anything fried is always likely to be a winner.

By the time the third dish arrived I could see a pattern developing; each was getting progressively more interesting. The tricolour design of green mojo, red mojo and local honey drizzled across lightly grilled cheese looked pretty as a picture and the savoury sweet combination of honey, mojos and cheese hit it off with the taste buds big time.

The grilled cheese was good but the ferrerro Canario that followed was even better; morcillo (Canarian black pudding) coated with chopped almonds and herbs and drizzled in honey was simply a tapas triumph.

Back to traditional for the penultimate round ““ pimientos de Padrón. If you’ve never tried these green peppers fried in olive oil and sprinkled with rock salt then you’re missing out on a classic tapas dish. What makes them even more appealing is that as well as being delicious they’re tapas with attitude; one in ten can pack a picante punch. But not apparently if they’ve been grown on Tenerife. If you fancy playing culinary Russian roulette check to make sure the pimientos de Padrón hail from La Palma. On this occasion I didn’t have to ask. As the waitress placed the bowl of peppers in front of me, a waiter serving another table gesticulated in my direction.

“Be careful,” he warned. “These are spicy ones.”

As it happened some did prompt a reaction akin to a dusky beauty wearing stilettos doing the tango on my tongue, but as a Rusholme vindaloo veteran it was nothing I couldn’t handle; they were some of the best pimientos de Padrón I’ve tasted in a long time.

All that I knew about my last choice was that it included octopus, the name pulpito al Olivo didn’t give much away, but it had been recommended by the waiter. When it arrived it turned out to be one of the most bizarre concoctions I’ve ever seen.

The morcels of octopus lay on top of layer of creamed potato sprinkled with paprika ““ basically it was octopus and mash and it was delicious. Amazingly the potatoes complimented the tender octopus perfectly. It was a wonderfully surprising denouement to an imaginative tapas meal with a difference”¦and they didn’t even charge me extra for the street entertainment.

Tenerife Magazine’s five star rating for Tasca el Olivo

Décor ““ 4 stars. Delivers exactly what you’d expect from a stylish Spanish tasca. Looks great and has a lively ambience.

Menu ““ 4 stars. Impressive range of choices with classic dishes to suit the traditionalists, but also a few imaginative offerings to excite foodies with adventurous taste buds.

Food – 4 stars. Dishes taste as though they’re all freshly cooked and prepared with TLC. Some work better than others.

Service ““ 4 stars. The waiter warning me about the pimientos typified the staff’s genuinely friendly and attentive approach.

Where when and how

C/Iriarte1, Puerto de la Cruz. Open 12.30 to 3pm and 7.15 to 10pm every day. Reservations 922 38 01 17 / 677 50 99 88

Tapas dishes are on average between €3 and €5. The Tasca has an extensive wine list and also a interesting range of Spanish beers chosen especially to make the tapas taste even better.


Valentine’s Day on Tenerife ““ Top Ten-erife Romantic Restaurants

Las Rocas TM res

Think Tenerife is full of cheap and cheerful bars and restaurants serving bog standard Brit food? Think again. There are plenty of stylish contemporary, romantically rustic and historically atmospheric eateries in which to enjoy a special Valentine’s Day dinner with your soul mate.

1: Las Rocas ““ Costa Adeje
A tropical paradise venue on a terrace perched above the ocean. The place for a romantic meal bathed in the warm golden rays of the sun setting behind La Gomera.
Tel: (+34) 922 746 000

2: La Cuadra de San Diego ““ La Matanza
Take the courtyard of a 400 year old mansion, add a drago tree and a mouth-watering menu and hey presto ““ a wonderfully atmospheric setting for a romantic Valentine’s meal.
Tel: (+34) 922 578 385

3: La Voile Blanche ““ La Caleta
Contemporary restaurant with exquisite décor in lovely little La Caleta. The presentation of the food is so imaginative that it’s difficult to say whether it looks better on a plate, or hanging in an art gallery.
Tel: (+34) 922 775 829

4: Los Roques ““ Los Abrigos
Style, sophistication and delicious looking and tasting cuisine beside Los Abrigos’ small harbour ““ for lovers who like the exhilarating smell of the sea served as an accompaniment to their meal.
Tel: (+34) 922 749 401

5: El Pimentón ““ Arico
Tucked away in one of Tenerife’s most delightful “˜secret’ plazas in Arico Nuevo, El Pimentón’s warm, welcoming and intimate dining room is perfect for couples who want to get cosy far from the madding crowd.
Tel: (+34) 922 768 486

6: Casa Pache ““ Puerto de la Cruz
Located in the delightfully named and plant-lined “˜Street of Truth’, Casa Pache has lots of eclectically decorated little rooms in which to share culinary treasures with someone special.
Tel: (+34) 922 389 031

7: La Baranda ““ El Sauzal
A museum might not sound like the most romantic location for dinner, but La Baranda just happens to be set in a 17th century hacienda”¦and it’s a wine museum anyway. Where better to eat drink and be very, very merry?
Tel: (+34) 922 563 886

8: La Tasquita de Nino ““ San Miguel de Abona
Beautiful polished wood and an exquisite mezzanine dining area make this former post office and cantina in an 18th century townhouse a lovely spot for a tête à tête dining experience
Tel: (+34) 922 700 463

9: El Monasterio ““ Los Realejos
Where better to revel in a sinful dining experience than a beautifully restored monastery? With a choice of restaurants on a volcanic cone overlooking the La Orotava Valley, this is one of the most stunning restaurants on Tenerife. There are even extensive gardens; perfect for an after dinner stroll hand in hand with the one you love.
Tel: (+34) 922 343 311

10: La Bodeguita de Enfrente ““ Santa Ursula
The saying “˜size doesn’t matter’ applies perfectly to this gem of a place. Intimate in the extreme and a treasure trove in which to share some of the most delicious tapas going.
Tel: (+34) 922 302 760

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